DANIEL VAUGHAN: Field of Dreams game reminds us what makes America great

Major League Baseball held its Field of Dreams game this week. When you’re describing the concept of the game on paper, where you’re trying to make life literally imitate art by bringing it to life, none of it should work. But it did, resoundingly so.

The Field of Dreams game should probably be MLB’s version of the NHL Winter Classic, a hockey match played outdoors. And we should have it every year.

The Field of Dreams game’s introduction saw Kevin Costner lightly reprising his role in the film of the same name, walking out of the cornfield baseball in hand. The Yankees and White Sox soon followed him out of the cornfield wearing classic, retro uniforms. The field was surrounded, appropriately, by the cornfields of Iowa, a mere stone’s throw from the movie set baseball field.

It didn’t stop with the general ambiance, movie soundtrack, or uniforms. The MLB went all the way.

They had an old-school scoreboard with the people running it dressed in 1920s clothing. Everything was designed to evoke that era of America, just as the movie romantically played with the stylings of the same period. That the game worked, just as the movie did, proves the central lines of that movie: If you build it, they will come.

The movie, ostensibly, is about baseball. But it’s talking about more, too, notably America’s nostalgia for its past.

Terrance Mann, brilliantly played by the incomparable James Earl Jones, explains this in the movie (this clip was also used throughout the Fox Sports broadcast of the Field of Dreams game):

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon.

They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

It’s a romantic notion, one of simpler times and the connections we make with family members. The last scene of Field of Dreams shows Costner’s character playing catch with his dad. Everything is drawn together with classic notions of Americana and family.

Even in 1989, when the movie was released, these ideas felt like ghosts walking out of a cornfield onto a field. There’s always this sense that if we build something just right or good, those ideals can come back to life. It gives us something to strive for.

It’s also amazing how that sense is mostly a constant desire.

Trump’s slogan was Make America Great Again, playing on similar themes. Biden ran his campaign on build back stronger, or together, pulling themes from the United Kingdom. These are themes you’ll find across the spectrum, except among those of a more progressive or communist persuasion, who see everything in the past of any type as inherently and irrevocably flawed and an obstacle to be overcome.

We look at our past and see the same kinds of romantic dreams of the past. Dreams of an America that still exists, and all we have to do is find a way to call it back into the present. It’s not hard to see where we get these dreams, when the words of the Declaration of Independence nearly demand them, stating:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Martin Luther King, Jr. channeled those very words with his “I Have a Dream” speech. The seeds of dreams exist everywhere in America, except for those who want to extinguish the past. That dream works too. It works, and as I sit watching the Field of Dreams game wind down, it’s that sense of classic Americana that pulls me back to those American dreams.

Let’s keep building it.